“Almost 40 years have passed since it became unlawful to pay women less than their male counterparts for work of equal value and yet the gender pay gap remains a yawning gulf in many Australian workplaces,” says ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Ms Burrow says women are faring worse than men on key measures of equality:

• Women earn on average ($196 per week) 16.3% less than  men

• Women have $3 for every $10 men have in their superannuation accounts

• Women are almost twice as likely to be under-employed than men

• Women are under-represented in senior positions in organizations

• Women are over-represented in industries dominated by casual, part-time and low paid employment;

• Women with caring responsibilities are prevented from joining the workforce through a lack of family friendly work arrangements

The ACTU is calling for mandatory annual reporting of gender pay data by all employers, including the private sector and small businesses. 

“This data should be collected and monitored by a federal government agency with the power to investigate cases of inequality and assist businesses in setting up proper reporting systems,” says the ACTU President.

“The data should be available for scrutiny during pay negotiations and at AGMs. A Pay Equity Commissioner should be appointed to ensure all awards and agreements comply with pay equity standards.

“Women workers were badly hurt by Work Choices. For the first time in decades, the pay equity gap grew wider after many women were forced onto individual contracts that stripped their pay to the barest levels, in many cases illegally underpaying them, and removing their job security.

“Women have played an absolutely critical role in Australia’s economic growth. It’s our duty to make sure they are not left behind if the economy they have helped to build starts to hit uncertain times.

“It is essential that we see new IR laws introduced into parliament that scrap the rest of Work Choices and ensure all workers, especially women, get back their rights at work,” says Ms Burrow.

Further details about the ACTU’s proposals will be contained in a submission to the Federal Parliamentary inquiry into pay equity in the current session of parliament.


Source: Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings, May 2008, Australian Bureau of Statistics.